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I'm so big-picture that...

Wednesday May 23, 2018

…it helps me to look at myself as a player-character in a role-playing game.

I am obligated to write this post since I was reviewing my midlife crisis finances and realized I’ve spent almost $400 on RPG books in recent years. Holy cow.

That amount is probably nothing to the neckbeards who are really into RPGs, but it made me realize: Now is probably a good time to examine the hobby as a metaphor and figure out what my subconscious wants from all this. Why the interest in RPGs? It’s not like I have read every RPG book I own cover to cover, after all. It’s something else.

Here are some principles I’ve learned as I’ve used metaphor to analyze the interest:

Life is a game. Try to enjoy life the same way you would enjoy a game night. Games simply echo various facets of life. And games are meant to be fun! Imagine what you want to happen and push for it. Make a point of enjoying your encounters, and planning enjoyable things. Ask yourself frequently: “Am I enjoying this?” (This is a big one. One of the things I do is help people find ways to enjoy life again)

Pay attention to Character Design. It helps if you can describe yourself, your character, your gifts, your background, your interests. Usually there are hidden leverage points here. Also, look at the types of RPG characters you enjoy playing. If you love playing James Bond, perhaps you could gain more leverage over your troubles if you were to become more suave, sneaky, clever, or smart. Maybe you need to take more risk and have more courage. If you love playing a Japanese cyberpunk girl from 2092, maybe you need to embrace femininity (be more self-forgiving, more naturally you, have more fun) and find more enjoyment in life while leveraging technology that can help you do what you need to do.

Emphasize the use of your unique gifts. People who spread their skill points across too many categories end up really suffering during the game. If your skill points are mostly allocated to Intelligence, you may wish to add points to other categories, but that also means you should use your intelligence as much as possible. If you’re a great researcher, make sure that every big problem you solve maximizes the use of that gift.

Know who your friends are and let them help you. You can’t do everything by yourself. When a friend uses their skills to help you, make a point of using your skills to help them. If you understand personality type, you can also invite friends to learn how to use gifts they haven’t really discovered yet. This can be a win-win, as your friends learn how to help themselves while also helping you with gifts that they possess.

Describe people you encounter. Based on the descriptions you produced, how would you interact with them in an RPG? It can really help to describe the people around you in this way, and while I haven’t tried it, making up a character sheet for them could be a really useful exercise.

Be a GM (game master). Observe and narrate the game. Describe what’s happening and explain the choices that need to be made. This is a good way to get around any intuitions which may be clouding your ability to make objective judgments.

Be a GD (game designer). Look for “the game” within your daily plans and situations. Identify it. Explain the principles, like what characters need to do in order to succeed, or where the risky, difficult areas are. Explain what makes a character fail. Explain what makes a character win—is it a single goal, or are there differing goals based on the characters that are playing?

Don’t get too meta. While you may be a game master or game designer, you’ll also need to actually play as a character in the game of life. Get in the game and be an active participant. Make an impact.

Be clever. Play the game for what it is. Don’t play every scenario the same way—analyze each individual scenario, look for leverage points, and take advantage of them. Make observations and act on those observations in a logical way.

Understand how far your character has come. Make a note of ways in which you have leveled up in the past. A list of milestones can really help.

Related interests

  • World-building
  • Probability
  • Game theory
  • Simulation
  • Narrative fiction
  • Storytelling
  • CYOA books
  • Game books and board games
  • Game development

In Conclusion

Did it help you? I hope so—this has been an instructive exercise for me.

To wrap things up, here’s a brief exercise:

Describe yourself as an RPG character. Now walk that character through their day. What do they need do in order to make the most of the day? Is it super difficult stuff—a high-risk dice roll, like a -5 modifier on a d20 roll? How will you manage and contingency-plan around the risk?

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